Dongpo in a humble hat and clogs: "Rustic" images of Su Shi and the cult of the exiled immortal
Posted on 16. Aug, 2010 by James Miller
|Title||Dongpo in a humble hat and clogs: "Rustic" images of Su Shi and the cult of the exiled immortal|
|Year of Publication||2008|
|ISBN Number||054963407X, 9780549634072|
This dissertation examines the history of a series of images of the renowned Northern Song literatus-statesman Su Shi, generically named Dongpo in a Bamboo Hat and Clogs. My reconstructed history of the image shows the process through which the Chinese literati who emulated Su came to accept, modify and propagate this image of Su as the emblem of his lofty spirit; as his "true" persona. Initially a minor portrait apparently confined to southern China, the image experienced periods of popularity and neglect, beginning in the twelfth century and continuing up to the present time. Although originally a humorous caricature of Su in a narrative mode representing an anecdote about Su's exile to the remote Hainan Island, its iconography was diversified through several centuries of transmission and development. Ultimately, in the seventeenth century, a more dignified iconic portrayal emerged. From the seventeenth century on, the image came to serve as a cult object for expressing devotion to Su, meaningful to literati who gathered to hold commemorative ceremonies honoring him. My study offers insight on how images may be adapted for specific purposes and provides a model for analyzing the portrayal of other Chinese historical figures. It also offers an example to shows how a picture with narrative elements that originally embodied popular taste gradually evolved into a formal portrait that intellectuals used to worship the subject.